Matilda Albuhaire -- A Sephardic Family Story

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Centropa's first film produced by the award-winning Bulgarian Photographer's Association.

Here is a story that begins in Istanbul in the 1850s and ends in contemporary Sofia.

After the death of his wife, Matilda Albuhaire's grandfather traveled with his young son to the Black Sea port of Bourgas, where he opened a small shop in a town filled with Greeks, Turks, Jews, Muslims and Bulgarian Christians. Matilda became a teacher in the Bourgas and Sofia Jewish schools, and when war came, waited with the other Bulgarian Jews for their deportation "to Poland," not knowing what awaited them there.

But Bulgaria's Jews were not deported -   the accompanying study guide provides articles and essays describing this remarkable incident.

After the war, most Bulgarian Jews emigrated to Israel; Matilda remained, and after the fall of Communism, once again became active in her Jewish community.

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Matilda Albuhaire's ancestors grew up in the late Ottoman Empire. To learn more about the Ottoman Empire, visit this website by the University of Michigan's Turkish Studies Department.

In 1882, Matilda Albuhaire's grandfather moved from Istanbul to Bulgaria. See a map from that year.

The European University Institute, located in Florence, Italy, provides you with extensive online resources on Bulgaria's history.

Jewish Virtual Library essay on Sephardim.

A history of Jewish life in Bulgaria, from The Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture.

Matilda Abulhaire's grandfather prayed regularly in the synagogue, and had a seat in front of the teva. Find out more on the meaning of teva in synagogues, or Sephardic Arks, in this article.

A summary of the work by the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in Bulgaria.

Matilda Albuhaire's grandfather came from Istanbul. You can visit the Chief Rabbinate of Turkey online.

To find out more about Jews in Istanbul, you can read this report on contemporary Jewish life in Istanbul.

If you want to find out more about different epochs of Bulgarian Jewish history, e.g. the post-war period, check out this Jewish Virtual Library website. 


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Matilda was born in 1916, during World War I. The Kingdom of Bulgaria participated in World War I on the side of the Central Powers. Read this country study by the Library of Congress to find out more on the history of Bulgaria's involvement in the war.

Matilda Albuhaire tells about the activities of the Socialist Zionist Youth Organization Hashomer Hatzair, the Zionist Youth Movement Betar, and Maccabi in her hometown Bourgas.

In the film, Matilda Albuhaire mentions that she staged a Purim play with her class. Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people of the ancient Persian Empire from a plot to annihilate them, as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther.


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Matilda Albuhaire spent two years in Sofia during the 1930s. Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, is the heart of the Sephardic Jewish culture in the country. Read a history of Jewish life in Sofia, from The Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture.

Read this essay to find out more about the city of Sofia.

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A US Holocaust Memorial Museum article on the history of Bulgaria during the Second World War.

A history of the Yellow Badge, which Jews were forced to wear starting in 1938.

Matilda Albuhaire mentions that the deportation of her family had fortunately been cancelled, although the Aegean Jews were taken to Poland. During the war, German-allied Bulgaria did not deport Bulgarian Jews. Dimitar Peshev, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Bulgaria and Minister of Justice during World War II, prevented the deportation of Bulgaria's Jews. Read a biography of Dimitar Peshev provided by The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.

Bulgaria did, however, deport non-Bulgarian Jews from the territories it had annexed from Yugoslavia and Greece. See historical footage of the deportation of Jews from Macedonia, which was occupied by Bulgaria during World War Two.

An article by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum on Jewish life in Europe before the Holocaust.

An article by Yad Vashem on the Jewish World and the Holocaust.

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Read about Matilda Albuhaire's Jewish family life before the war.

Matilda Albuhaire talks about the fate of her family in Bulgaria during the war.

Read an excerpt of Centropa's interview with Matilda Albuhaire where she talks about her life in Bulgaria after the war to the present.

Matilda Albuhaire's story begins in Istanbul, where her grandfather lived in the late Ottoman Empire. A very brief history of this city.

See historic postcards from Istanbul online.

Take a virtual tour to Istanbul with a New York Times travel guide.

Plovdiv, one of Europe's oldest cities and the second-largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia, was the hometown of Matilda's mother. You can take a virtual tour through today's Plovdiv on this website.

A collection of Centropa´s pictures from Bulgaria, showing youth group activities.

Click here to learn more about the Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) language.

The synagogue of Bourgas was turned into an art gallery in communist times. You can find some pictures on their English website and more on their blog, which is available in Bulgarian only.

See a listing of all synagogues in Istanbul.

Film Details

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Study Guide

Find more information in our comprehensive Study Guide.

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Film Script

for teachers and students who would like to read the script.

Study Guide

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